I’m thrilled to share the remarkable progress we’ve made this year in ensuring that EVERY eligible foster child has a dedicated Advocate! Despite the challenges in child welfare, your adaptability and commitment have been truly remarkable. As DCP&P focuses on keeping families together, the need for Advocates has increased, and you’ve risen to the occasion.
There have been dramatic changes in child welfare including:
- Increased Focus on Family Preservation: DCP&P has intensified its commitment to keeping families together by raising the criteria for abuse and neglect that warrant removal. Simultaneously, there has been a reduction in the recruitment and training of new foster homes.
- Emphasis on Kinship Placements: DCP&P is channeling all efforts into placing children with kin, (which are not licensed or trained resource homes) and is cutting back on the recruitment and training of new resource homes
- Shortage in Out-Of-Home Care: The Out-Of-Home system has a significant shortage of staff and available beds. This shortage has resulted in children being wait-listed for therapeutic placements, sometimes exceeding a year.
- Unprecedented Turnover of Caseworkers: A shortage of caseworkers has led to an unprecedented turnover, impacting the stability of support for our children.
You, in turn have adapted your roles by:
- Increased Dedication: Advocates have adapted by dedicating more time to their appointed children and families, evident in a notable increase in donated hours. This commitment ensures much-needed consistency in their support.
- Stabilization of Resource Homes: Advocates are playing a crucial role in stabilizing resource homes, recognizing the scarcity of placement options for children without kin.
- Support for Kin Placements: Advocates are assisting often unprepared kin placements, providing essential items like toys, clothes, food gift cards, and bedding. Additionally, they connect these placements with community resources for additional support.
- Stress Mitigation for Wait-Listed Teens: Advocates are actively working to de-escalate stress in the fragile placements of wait-listed teens, often in need of therapeutic services. This includes more frequent visits, organizing activities like gym sessions, and advocating for their prioritized consideration when suitable beds become available.
Bergen CASA is evolving to address these challenges by providing more resources. We have been meeting all manner of emergency needs, from bedding and mattresses to uber gift cards, to paying for activities, tutoring, prom dresses, food gift cards etc. Additionally we are increasing and targeting our in-service training to better meet your needs.
And hot off the presses!
We’re excited to announce federal funding for our Fostering Futures mentoring program, empowering teen Advocates to drive their appointed children in specific situations, a significant development we’ll be rolling out in the new year!
Last, but certainly not least:
Join us for our ‘Mingle and Jingle’ gathering from 4:00 – 7:00 on December 13 at One Bergen County Plaza, 1st Floor Multipurpose Room to learn more about our initiatives, including cooking classes at Eastwick College and Embracing Independence Day at the American Dream. Meet our incredible team, from dynamic Trustees to our dedicated Development Manager, Jennifer Heit, and the Fostering Futures team led by Malika Zlatkin, supported admirably by Sharon Barth.
As we approach the holidays, I want to express my gratitude. It is an honor to work with you – our Advocates – who are so devoted to positively impacting the lives of our foster children and their families.